West of Memphis
|West of Memphis|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Amy J. Berg|
|Produced by||Peter Jackson |
|Written by||Amy J. Berg |
|Starring||The West Memphis Three: |
|Music by||Nick Cave |
|Cinematography||Maryse Alberti |
|Editing by||Billy McMillin|
|Studio||WingNut Films |
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Release dates|| |
|Running time||147 minutes|
|Country||New Zealand |
Following from the original Paradise Lost film and its two sequels, West of Memphis follows the events of the West Memphis Three, a case in which three teenagers — Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin — were arrested for the murders of three 8-year old children: Christopher Byers, Steven Branch, and Michael Moore.
The West Memphis Three were subsequently convicted of murder and remained in prison for more than 18 years, being released just prior to the third Paradise Lost film. West of Memphis focuses on Terry Hobbs, stepfather of Stevie Branch, one of the victims of the 1993 crime, as a potential suspect due to physical evidence linking him to the crime and damaging statements made by his ex-wife, former neighbors, and most recently his own nephew, who claims Hobbs confessed to him.
Since the 1996 release of the HBO Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, supporters protested the innocence of the West Memphis Three. Much like the Paradise Lost films, West of Memphis chronicles the history of the imprisoned men all the way up to the eventual release through interviews conducted with lawyers, judges, journalists, family members, witnesses, and the West Memphis Three themselves. With the January 2012 HBO premiere of the third Paradise Lost film, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, there were two documentary films on the subject within a year.
West of Memphis premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 and at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012. On June 14, 2012, Sony Pictures Classics revealed the release date for West of Memphis in New York City and Los Angeles to be December 28, 2012, with theatrical release in the rest of the US to follow in January 2013.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, movie critic Joe Morgenstern described West of Memphis as "a devastating account of police incompetence, civic hysteria and prosecutorial behavior that was totally at odds with a vastly persuasive body of evidence uncovered in a privately funded investigation." Director Amy Berg, wrote Morgenstern, "has a dramatist's eye for what was irretrievably lost — the innocent lives of the children, plus 18 years of three other innocent lives. And she saw, equally well, what was there to be gained: dramatic new insights into an inexorable progression from random arrests through groundless supposition, fevered conjecture and flagrant perjury to official disgrace in a supposedly airtight case."
Film critic Philip French of The Observer called West of Memphis "riveting," and a "shocking indictment of the American criminal justice system and a tribute to the dedication of selfless civil rights lawyers and their supporters from all over the world."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie an "A-" and wrote that "the film casts a hypnotic spell all its own. It artfully sketches out the events for anyone who's coming in cold, but basically, its strategy is to take what we already know and go deeper. ... West of Memphis goes after another possible suspect, Terry Hobbs, who was stepfather to one of the victims and who has denied any involvement. In doing so, the film reframes the story's terrible darkness, even if it can't give us the closure we hunger for."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a perfect four star rating, saying: "Do we need a fourth film? Yes, I think we do. If you only see one of them, this is the one to choose, because it has the benefit of hindsight."
- Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, the original 1996 film on the trial of the West Memphis Three
- Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, which follows up on the appeals and post-trial controversy
- Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which was supposed to follow the West Memphis Three as they remained in prison, but was changed to their release after the West Memphis Three were released from prison
- "WEST OF MEMPHIS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-12-13.
- Morgenstern, Joe (December 27, 2012). "Tarantino, Blessedly Unchained". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
- French, Philip (December 22, 2012). "West of Memphis - review". The Observer. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
- Gleiberman, Owen (January 18, 2013). "West of Memphis". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.): 61.
- Official website
- West of Memphis at the Internet Movie Database
- West of Memphis at Box Office Mojo
- West of Memphis at Rotten Tomatoes
- West of Memphis at Metacritic